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Thailand: Pita Limjaroenrat's victory is not good news for China

From the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the purchase of vaccines from Beijing: the foreign policy positions of Pita Limjaroenrat differ considerably from those, very cautious, of the other protagonists of the Thai political landscape

© Agenzia Nova - Reproduction reserved

Yesterday's electoral results in Thailand are destined to radically change not only the internal scenario, but also the international positioning of a country which in recent years has always tried to maintain a difficult balance between the two most influential superpowers in the area. the United States and China. The foreign policy positions of Limjaroenrat asks, winner of the elections with his party Phak Kao Klai (Let's go on), differ not a little from those, very cautious, of the other protagonists of the Thai political scene. Last year, for example, the leader of Phak Kao Klai has clearly taken a stand against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, invited on Twitter to "withdraw its forces immediately". Thailand, on the other hand, abstained in October 2022 on the United Nations resolution condemning Moscow's annexation of Ukrainian territories. In the past, Pita has also intervened decisively on the crisis in neighboring Myanmar, attacking the military junta that took power in the country in February 2021 and distancing himself from the official position of the Thai government, which has always promoted a resolution of the crisis through secret diplomats, on the one hand for fear of possible repercussions of the conflict across the border, on the other for fear of irritating China, which more or less openly has never lacked its support for the Burmese military.

China could view political developments in Thailand with extreme concern, a country of great political and economic importance in an area in which Beijing does not tolerate US interference. The Phak Kao Klai di Pita, now the country's leading political force, in the past clamored for Prime Minister Prayut to stop buying Chinese vaccines to counter the Covid-19 pandemic. Above all, the probable future premier, while refusing to openly take a stand in favor of one of the rival superpowers, puts respect for human rights at the center of his international policy, a line that would directly project Thailand into the field of democracies on which the president insists American Joe Biden. “International relations are not about choosing a field, but about choosing principles,” Pita recently said in an interview with the “Standard” newspaper, promising that “the promotion of fundamental rights will be the guiding star of Thai foreign policy” .

This position could also have effects on relations with Saudi Arabia, mended only recently after years of frost due to the so-called "Blue Diamond Affair": the theft, in 1989, of about 90 kilos of jewels belonging to the then prince Saudi hereditary Faisal ibn Abdulaziz al Saud by a Thai gardener, Kriangkrai Techamong. For years, the Thai government has been aiming to relaunch trade relations with Riyadh and tourist flows from the Persian Gulf to strengthen economic growth. Diplomatic efforts were rewarded last November by the visit to Bangkok of the heir to the Saudi throne, Mohammed bin Salman, and the simultaneous signing of five agreements to increase trade and investment between the two countries. With Pita in government, relations between Thailand and Saudi Arabia could worsen again. Conversely, those with the United States could improve, a country in which the aspiring prime minister studied for many years at the University of Texas, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Washington still represents an important commercial partner for Bangkok today (in 2022 the United States imported products from Thailand for 58 billion dollars) and an important supplier of weapon systems. The US, which considers Thailand its main interlocutor in Southeast Asia, reaffirmed the importance it attaches to the country and the region with the visit made last July by the secretary of state Antony Blinken.

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